The Deaf Community Among Us
On any given Sunday morning at Westside Church, people shuffle into their seats preparing their hearts to experience the presence of Jesus through powerful worship, rich community and an anointed message shared. Alongside the voices singing and hands raised in our gatherings, there is a unique expression of adoration and connection happening that may go unseen. This is the deaf community that comes together every 9:45am service to experience Jesus in authentic ways. These formerly “unreached” among us are a vital part of who we are and we are blessed to welcome them in with open arms.
The deaf, “Hear with their eyes and their hearts,” says Dave Hagenbach, Westside’s Deaf Community pastor, “We want to build bridges between the deaf community and the hearing culture. Spoken audible words translated into visual words show the emotion of the word that is spoken.” As you watch the deaf community worship through signing you will be moved by the beautiful expression of their sincere hearts.
As we are challenged as a faith community to extend our view of who we consider our “neighbor” to be, we feel a call to those in Central Oregon who may be isolated because they are a part of this valuable community. With hearts open, we seek to stand side by side with our brothers and sisters and celebrate the beautiful work that God is doing among them. Beyond gathering on Sundays services, the deaf community meets in small group settings in various locations across Central Oregon. In these communities, there is a rich hunger for knowing God and living authentic lives for Him. Marriages are being restored, doors are opening for education and desired jobs, and God is moving, bringing hope and purpose.
Not only do we rejoice in this work among the deaf community, but we are called to engage and love them with intentionality. “Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents,” says Dave Hagenbach, “Don’t be afraid to meet a deaf person—they love to meet hearing people and feel a connection. You can always write on paper or have someone help you communicate. Especially give big smiles and hugs. And remember that a deaf person is simply someone who can’t hear! When Helen Keller was asked which disability she would prefer to have she remarked: ‘ Blindness separates people from things; Deafness separates people from people.’” Let us go beyond our comfort zones and embrace the deaf community that God has brought us with genuine love, as we seek to understand and encourage them.
Written By: Jenna Anderson || Photography By: Abi Auer